MADISON – By a 4-2 vote, the Wisconsin Elections Commission last week dismissed complaints brought by three individuals who alleged that State Rep. Shannon Zimmerman, R-River Falls, doesn’t live in the Assembly district he represents.
The complaints brought by three area residents alleged that Zimmerman’s primary residence isn’t the duplex he owns on Jefferson Street in River Falls, which is in Assembly District 30. Instead, they alleged that his primary residence is outside of the district, in a house in the town of Clifton.
Zimmerman has publicly denied the allegations and stated that his River Falls address is his primary residence.
By statute, much of what the WEC does regarding complaints against elected officials is confidential including the complaint, the accused’s response and even how each of the commissioners voted.
READ MORE: Zimmerman reelected in Assembly District 30
Two of the complainants want their identities to remain confidential, but the third, Dana Linscott, Town of Clifton, has talked to Rivertowns.net about the allegation he brought and called the process the WEC uses to resolve complaints “dismal.”
“They expect the complainants to develop all the evidence for them while they accept the evidence from the individuals about whom the complaint was made,” Linscott said.
Another “big advantage” to complainants is that Zimmerman got to see the evidence filed against him, but complainants couldn’t see Zimmerman’s response.
“That’s a huge flaw in the procedure which should be used to prevent skullduggery by elected officials,” Linscott said.
Linscott had videos taken of Zimmerman’s River Falls address that Linscott said purportedly showed that the representative didn’t reside at his voting address as required by law.
“I offered it to them but (a WEC attorney) said it would further delay the hearing as Shannon would have to respond,” Linscott said.
Linscott acknowledged that the flaw in the WEC’s effectiveness really lies in the statutes the Legislature passed that established it in 2016 to replace the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.
Three Republicans and three Democrats are appointed to the commission, which currently includes Dean Knudson of Hudson, who has served as the city’s mayor and had been elected to the Assembly District that Zimmerman now serves.
“I have compassion for them,” Linscott said, of the WEC, "but they’re constrained by their mandate, which is simply to provide the illusion that there’s someone, some watchdog agency, that is protecting the public from corrupt legislators. However, the Legislature has neutered it so its abilities are limited.”
WEC spokesman Reid Magney has said the WEC considers complaints in closed session and determines if there is probable cause to refer the matter to a district attorney as the commission has no power to impose any penalties.
Other pending allegations
Linscott has also filed a false identification complaint with the Department of Motor Vehicles alleging Zimmerman listed an address other than his factual residence in order to commit voter fraud.
“It’s illegal to apply for a Wisconsin driver’s license using an address that you don’t reside at,” Linscott said, about the nature of his complaint.
The DMW is prohibited from discussing the complaint at this stage of their investigation.
Linscott also has asked the River Falls Police Department to look into whether River Falls actually is Zimmerman’s primary residence, but that investigation is going nowhere fast.
He shared the video taken of the front of Zimmerman’s residence with the police, but Linscott was told that the images would have to be enlarged to be useful and the police didn’t have the resources to do that.
Linscott said he is having the images enlarged to better show who is coming and going from Zimmerman’s River Falls residence.
Although his complaints have been pending for months, Linscott perseveres believing it’s the right thing to do.
“That’s the law and these are serious laws,” Linscott said of voter fraud and residency requirements for candidates.
Voter fraud can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on certain circumstances. Few felony convictions have been recorded as many cases are considered an honest mistake or there isn’t sufficient evidence to show intent to commit fraud, according to published accounts.
However, when an elected official is proven to be ineligible to hold office they should be removed, which is what Linscott ultimately seeks for Zimmerman.